#897: “Every time I invite our friends to something, this person suggests a competing event.”

Hi Captain Awkward,

I find myself in a very awkward but relatively low-stakes situation with a classmate. There is a woman in my cohort at college who has this weird habit of rescheduling other students’ social events (not just mine, but mostly mine). For example, someone invites the group by email out to go hiking, and she’ll respond saying let’s all go bowling instead. Once I invited everyone to a dinner party I was hosting at my home, and she tried to change the event to be a restaurant outing at a different time!

I understand that in the course of group planning, sometimes people negotiate things like whether to meet at 8 or 9, or whether to get Mexican or Italian, but her behavior is going way beyond that. And frankly, sometimes I don’t really care if everyone can make it – I just want to go see this awesome concert and it’d be even more awesome if others wanted to join.

There’s obviously a lot of GSF5 going on here. How can I talk to her about this without making it seem like I don’t care about her presence? I do care, and I love spending time with her, but I can’t accommodate her on every social outing. Also/alternatively, what is a polite way to indicate to the group, after she inevitably makes some “helpful” suggestions, that my invitation is not up for negotiation?

Just Send Me Your Regrets

Dear Just Send Me,

As you say, I think there is room for negotiation sometimes, like, “Aw, I’d love to, but I’m allergic to peanuts, can we do Not Thai?” “My ex works there, so, could we go to a different bar?” In those negotiations there also has to be room for “My heart is set on trying this new Thai place this week, but join us (& pick the place) next time?” or “Oof, sorry it’s Ex-Bar, my friend’s band is playing there and I promised her I’d go. Want to get a quick drink at Not-Ex-Bar with us before the show?”  Sometimes the right thing to do is to just decline the invitation and then make your own invitation for another time. Invitations are not commands, nor are they reasons to wonder if your friends like peanut oil more than they like you. You gotta trust in reciprocity. Your friend has not learned this yet, but hopefully she can. College is a great time to figure this out!

I’m assuming these are electronic invitations of some sort (emails or Evites or FB invites or group texts), yes?

There’s a public way and a private way to fix this.

Public way: Next time you’re like “Free concert in the park Saturday – I’m going to be there at 7pm with a blanket, bring snacks if you want to join” and she says “No, let’s go bowling instead!” you could reply to the group and say, “Bowling sounds fun, enjoy! I’m 100% planning on going to the concert. Can I get a head count for who’s joining me there?

Politely decline her alternate invitation and repeat your own. You’re not being mean, you are being clear and direct.

Private way: Wait until she does her thing to an invitation of yours and then maybe call her or talk to her in person or text *just her* (remembering what we said yesterday about text/email fights) and say, “Did you mean to hijack my dinner party invitation to ask everyone to come to a restaurant during the exact same window instead?

If you don’t want to come to dinner, or can’t – just let me know, it’s okay! We’ll hang out another time. Instead looks like you got my invitation and then immediately set up a competing event, which makes it seem like not only did you not want to come over but you didn’t want anyone in our friend group to come over. It really annoyed me/hurt my feelings.” 

Traps to avoid:

  • You ALWAYS do this, tho!” She’s been doing this for a while, but she’s not been aware that it’s a problem before right now and doesn’t have the same head start on being annoyed that you do, so definitely keep at least the first conversation you have focused on the one recent specific incident.
  • You do this to everyone/everyone is annoyed at you for doing this!” People sometimes mistakenly think that invoking “the whole group” will make their case stronger, when really it just moves the conversation to “Wait, ‘everyone’ is annoyed with me and nobody said?” “What, exactly, did ‘everyone’ say?” Don’t elect yourself spokesperson, just talk about your own issues with the behavior. Talking about ‘everyone’ will really hurts her feelings and get nothing done that you want accomplished.
  • I think you might just be afraid of being left out…” Don’t suggest or off her reasons as to why she might be doing this or explain her feelings or reasons to her. Tell her how the behavior affects you, and let her do the rest.

Bonus Nice Thing If You Really Really Like This Friend:

I know I just said don’t go into Reasons she’s doing this, but my read is that she really wants to be the Initiator of Fun Events but by the time she gets her idea together it’s too late and one of the serial planners in the group has already planned something for that time window. You are not obligated to do this in any way – managing all of her feelings is not your job, taking care of your own feelings is your job – but if you end up having a talk with her, and you really like her and want to heal everything with her, plan something jointly with her. Consult her privately first, nail down all the details, and then jointly send (or have her send) the invite to everyone and let her feel the glow of being the host. If this is what she’s really hungry for deep down, it will be a lovely thing if you can feed her.



122 thoughts on “#897: “Every time I invite our friends to something, this person suggests a competing event.”

  1. Planning events with her that are not so easy to change like a dinner party is a great solution. It won’t matter what her reasons are. This should take care of it. If it doesn’t and she’s still difficult, you can then decide if you want to stay friends with her. You can always invite people personally by phone and not include her at that point if she keeps derailing you.

  2. “Once I invited everyone to a dinner party I was hosting at my home, and she tried to change the event to be a restaurant outing at a different time!Once I invited everyone to a dinner party I was hosting at my home, and she tried to change the event to be a restaurant outing at a different time!”

    It was exceptionally shitty of her to do this when you were planning a dinner party. Like, it’s crappy to do this anyway (outside of small negotiations within reason) but wow. “Hey, I know you’re inviting people to your house but let me hijack it!” I’d be sorely tempted to hit reply all and send the message asking if she really meant to hijack the dinner party invitation.

    1. I’d be tempted, too. This woman didn’t want to go to a dinner party, so she what? Tried to convince everyone else it was lame by trying to plan something that could have been done literally any other day? Did she want LW to sit in the kitchen alone or kowtow to the true Ruler of Friendship? I’ve only had to deal with this a handful of times, and each time it took all of my energy not to fly into a frothy rage.

      1. Since I can’t edit, I’ll add that I just became aware of my knee-jerk reaction to assume what people’s motivations are and get angrier because of it. Please excuse my Goofus moment, everyone!

    2. That stood out to me, too. “I want to hang out but I don’t like to hike, so let’s bowl instead!” is kind of tone-deaf (just because you don’t like an activity doesn’t mean that you should counterpropose every time someone else brings it up; I don’t much like concerts but I can just… not go to the concert and suggest pottery painting for the next week), but IME within the range of mostly-harmless social clumsiness. But trying to lure people away from a planned dinner party strikes me as different, in that a dinner party isn’t a “let’s hang out and here’s my idea for what we can do,” it’s active hosting. I don’t know that I’m expressing myself well, but it feels really different to me.

      I could reply to a “Let’s go bowling instead!” or a “I don’t like Thai, let’s do Italian the same night!” with a breezy “Oh, I have my heart set on hiking/Thai, but have fun! People who want hiking/Thai, let me know so I can get a head count.” But if someone tried to usurp a party I was hosting? And I mean, actively and directly usurp in the same thread (as opposed to “oops we both indepentently planned different things on the same day”?) I’d feel more like I needed to have a (polite but firm) “dude, what’s up, not cool” conversation with them.

      1. My comment turned out more judgmental and less insightful than I wanted it to be, but I got the same feeling, TC. Opening up your home to guests and cleaning/cooking/entertaining is a lot of work, and it’s a very intimate (vulnerable?) act to invite other people to spend time in a space where you are wholly and unabashedly You… and to know that you will be setting the tone for the evening in a major way. This may be the introvert in me, but pitching yourself and your habitat for an evening of fun makes me feel particularly raw and exposed. It’s hard (for me) not to take attempted derailing personally in that context.

      2. Yes, thank you. Maybe I should have emphasized this more, but the events she’s tried to negotiate have included things like someone’s birthday party. It’s really not cool, but the Captain’s advice about not focusing on the whole history is good. She’s right – I’ve definitely been annoyed about this for a while now.

        1. It’s okay to be pissed off about this. Honestly, I would not be polite if someone pulled that crap around a dinner party I was planning. Or anything I was planning, but especially something at my freaking house. I typically default to nice/diplomatic (believe it or not) but in a case like this I’d go from 0 to Bitch in under a second.

          And I think the “Let’s hijack your planned get-together at your HOME” is rage-inducing for the very reasons HindsightGraduate said. (Which, HindsightGraduate, I don’t think you’re being judgmental at all. I’m slow on the uptake when it comes to social nicieites and even I know that it’s kinda crappy to hijack a party at someone’s home. That’s crappy.)

          1. I definitely agree that the hijacking of a dinner hosted at home is rage-inducing. And when I read HindsightGraduate’s second post, I took it to mean that there’s no need to also decide on the reasons for this appalling behaviour and be angry at those too – the behaviour is appalling on its own, regardless of the reasons. But I think many of us are trained to not complain as long as the bad behaviour can be explained away as “they didn’t really mean it that way” – so we tend to not only object to the behaviour, we also need to be certain within ourselves that it was badly meant. As in “you did bad thing X” isn’t bad enough, so we add “and it can ONLY have been DELIBERATELY bad”.

        2. Oh, that’s so not cool

          Story time: I’m still burned about a thing that happened fifteen years ago, but I planned a big bar crawl for my 21st birthday, and my “friend” and housemate then invited everyone I’d invited–except me!–on a bar crawl that same night for her boyfriend’s birthday. Hilarious bit: he wasn’t 21 yet, since his birthday was two days after mine.

          Anyway. It’s a crappy thing to do and I absolutely would push back on her for that. The hiking/bowling thing is excusable, but the birthday party and dinner party are a whole other level of aggressiveness.

          1. Wow, that sounds awful. I’d still get the hot flush/twisty tummy/cringe combination if that had happened to me! I’m sorry your “friend” hurt you like that.

            I’m very much with you that LW’s person is erring more toward malice than social cluelessness.

          2. Ha! This reminds of a time when I was in college…there was this guy I used to date (did not rise to the threshold of boyfriend even) and stopped dating because he was kind of a tool about many things and he definitely knew I was pissed off about those things when we stopped dating, AND with whom I share an actual birth date.**

            I knew that he was sulking about the split that happened a couple of months previously, but I was way over it. A week before the (same date!) birthday, his friend stopped me on campus to ask me to come to his party: “He asked me to invite you. He’s been kind of low lately, and I know it would mean a lot to him if you came.” Uh no, I have plans for MY OWN birthday and do not wish to spend it with Sulky Tool Guy. I do not like him. That’s why we don’t see each other any more.

            **Among the tool things: He lied to me about how much younger he was than me. I found out because it seemed like such a crazy coincidence that we were born on the same day and he showed me his driver’s license to prove it. Being younger = not such a big deal. Being a liar and kind of dumb to boot was a real turnoff. (It occurs to me now that sending his friend to invite me rather than just doing it himself is also kind of a tool thing. Assuming I’d rather spend my birthday with his tool self is particularly tool-y.)

        3. Yiiiiiikes. I am boggled at the idea of trying to take over details of someone else’s BIRTHDAY PARTY. That is at best an incredible lack of boundaries.

          I think you have every right to be irritated and to treat this seriously. There are situations where it’s fair to consider the details of a social event up for negotiation, but a dinner or birthday party thrown by someone else is not one of them!

          1. Actually, replying to myself to add: given this new information (which the good Captain did not have) I would say that I do not think you should try the last thing CA mentions, about maybe co-planning things with her. If she was just socially clumsy, it might well be a kindness to actively invite her into event planning with you. But someone who is sufficiently entitled to try to negotiate the details of things like other peoples’ dinner parties or birthdays doesn’t need to be further encouraged to think of party planning as collaborative.

            I think a boundary is going to be more useful here, which would probably take the form of something like CA’s “private way:” an email saying something like “Hey, it bothers me that I extended hospitality to my friends by inviting them for dinner, and you tried to completely change the time and venue in response. If you can’t or don’t want to come, that’s fine–but please don’t try to change the details of an event that I am hosting. It’s inconsiderate of the work I put into hosting, and it hurts my feelings.” Or something. And if that doensn’t stop her, I’d seriously consider not including her in anything but casual group invites where you don’t mind if she says “okay but let’s do Indian instead of Mexican, at 5pm instead of 6pm, and followed by clubbing instead of watching X-Files reruns.”

        4. Alright – That is something I would call out in the moment in the group. “Ummm…. It is Captain Carrot’s birthday – he should get to decide what we do” But that may just be the culture of my friends where the birthday person always calls the shots that day.

          1. I’ve been in friend groups back in college where it wouldn’t have been out of line to say “so excited for your birthday! I’d love to celebrate but can’t on Saturday – any chance you can move the dinner to Friday?” But at the same time birthday person would be in bounds to say “sorry, can’t – let’s meet up the 2 of us Thursday” etc.

            Anyway, just chiming in that negotiating birthday plans isn’t weird to me if it’s done with grace and love.

            It’s not necessarily about the reasons for your event, which may be more/less emotional to different personalities, but the intent, frequency, & regard for others behind the friend’s negotiations (or it sounds like coopting) of group plans.

    3. This – honestly, I think I’d stop inviting someone who does stuff like this to events.

      If someone did this to me, I’d probably just hit reply all to their email with “I’m sorry you can’t make it to Event Already Planned! Next time!”

    1. Not cynical? The way to meet passive-aggressive behavior is straight on, in my experience. “Did you intend to do x? Because that’s what you’re doing, and it sucks.

      1. Yes. Passive-aggressive behavior depends on the P-A person being unclear and not-explicit about what they’re doing. When you behave in a social proper way that prevents P-A behavior from being effective, they either have to give up or be explicit.

    2. I was kind of wondering myself…… I can’t speak so much to this particular situation and friend of the LW, but I personally have known *several* people who pull this kind of BS as part of a ridiculous game of one-upmanship and perpetual battle to be the social queen bee. I certainly can’t say for sure that this is the case here, but the attempts to reschedule people’s own personal events, like dinner parties and birthday get-togethers, certainly hints at the possibility.

  3. Yeah. “Sorry you can’t make it, Friend! (optional, “We’ll miss you!”) For everyone else, just let me know if you can come by (date).”

  4. I’ve had success with inviting everyone individually! That way it’s not about what the group wants to do, but what you’re doing that the group is welcome to join you in doing 🙂

    1. Individual invitations! Email individually, or better yet, use that old fashioned device the telephone. Go one by one, and invite each of your friends giving them time to get back to you about whether or not they can make it. Invite Cohort Offender last after you already know pretty much who’s expected to come and the details have gelled.

      Do you have any sense for why she does this? It doesn’t necessarily matter- I still think individual invitations is the way to go- but it would help me picture this better if I thought she genuinely thinks a restaurant would be a nicer time or if there’s some one-upping going on.

      1. You don’t technically need to even do individual invitations depending on how petty you’re willing to be. Group invite minus her own individual invite could also work.

        1. This is why I wondered why Cohort Offender was doing the hijacking. The LW says that she does care and loves spending time with the offender, so Offender does have redeeming qualities. If Offender is just cluelessly well-meaning, then it’s nuclear to freeze her out without so much as an explanation. If, however, Offender is doing something more mean spirited, then I’m with you: Stop inviting her when she seems never to like what she’s been invited to.

          1. I didn’t actually mean stop inviting her period. If LW still wants to invite her to things, send out a group invite to everyone else if necessary, send CO her own personal invite, was what I was saying.

    2. Just as long as you tell everyone it is a GROUP get together.
      I still get twitchy about individual invitations that turned out not to be me and inviter, but actually a whole bunch of people I didn’t necessarily know.

  5. In my case, there are categories of invitations I will refuse every time – for instance I hate mani/pedis and occasionally get politely invited to join a group getting them – and I always say no.
    When I was younger, it took me some effort to realize that because I said no to the invitation, it did not mean the group was going to cancel their appointments or stop liking this thing I do not like. I eventually levelled up and figured out I had this (not entirely conscious!) expectation that they would, and everything is much better now.

    Putting it in those terms it seems obvious that OF COURSE people aren’t going to stop doing something just because you don’t want to do them, but this sort of thinking is a common fallacy for a reason. LW’s friend needs to level up.

    Anyway, one thing that could have helped is not getting invited to things I will never want to go to, and getting invited to something else instead (or making my own invitations, which is what Friend is doing).

    So I wonder, is there any kind of common thread to the invitations that get hijacked (besides “organized by LW”)?
    Perhaps Friend is at a similar place to younger me, and until she levels up perhaps it’s worth trying to see if, for instance, she’s always trying to reschedule X-type events, it could be because she just doesn’t like X, so invite her to Not X events and invite another subset of the group to the X events?

    In addition to the advice in the Captain’s response, of course, and only IF LW likes this friend enough to warrant the effort.

    1. Not that I don’t think this is helpful advice in general (because it totally is and I had a similar experience growing up) but the LW mentioned three very different kinds of events that had been issues (hiking, dinner and a concert) and implied that there were others. The dinner was even replaced by a different kind of dinner. I’m not sure what the LW could invite this person to that would not be an issue if this is their issue.

      1. I also feel like, if this *was* the case, it would not be LW’s job to do a Sherlock Holmes job and decipher the hidden pattern here. It would be the friend’s job to *use their words*.

        I am not a fan of going to nightclubs (with the exception of a very fun and cosy mixed-genre metal/punk/goth night I grew up with back home, which did not have a typical nightclub atmosphere). So when my friends have suggested going clubbing, I have declined. The second time one member of a group of friends tried to turn a low-key wine-and-snacks-at-Janes-house into “and lets go clubbing after!” and I declined, I specifically said that I didn’t enjoy clubs, but I would be happy to hang out for the wine-and-snacks pre-clubbing event and hoped they had fun the rest of the night.

        Boom. I was only very rarely invited to go clubbing after that (usually by the same person in the group, who would be a little too enthusiastic on the pre-clubbing wine and would then spontaneously decide that it was *so sad* to split the group up and we all *had* to go to the club together *come oooon* it’ll be *so fuuuuun*). I would get invited to the pre-club stuff, and other events, and I was happy.

        From the events LW has mentioned, I can’t see any pattern to them except *events suggested by LW*. But if there is a hidden pattern, it is their friend’s responsibility to own it and be open about it, and accept that this might mean they don’t get to take part in everything. Not LW’s responsibility to manage that for them.

  6. I had a friend who did this. For her, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t passive aggressive or intended as rude, but just a nearly pathological need to optimize every experience she had plus a(n un)healthy dose of social obliviousness. She was famous for “instead of the party you’re planning, how about we do this great party idea that I had?” and occasionally even poaching guests in her enthusiasm. She joined a book club and then wouldn’t come to the meetings where we picked a book she wasn’t already planning to read (which, fine, your prerogative, but isn’t the point of a book club at least partly to read things you wouldn’t have picked up otherwise?).

    Honestly, we stopped being friends eventually, because I was tired of my good time being bulldozed by hers. She was a lovely person in other ways, but we were also 35 and this was a lifelong pattern, so there was really no chance it would change. So I don’t have any advice, but I do feel for you; it sucks to be erased from your own social life like that.

    1. Yeah, I knew someone who pretty clearly had a lot wrapped up in the identity of being the Social Cruise Director for our social group, and there was really no getting out of it. I tried gently pushing back, but in the end there wasn’t really any stopping her (I think she found the idea that other people could plan and pull off events sort of threatening?), so I just stopped inviting her to anything I wasn’t fine with her taking over and changing to suit her preferences. Sucks, but there it is.

  7. But I’m wondering if part of her issue is that she’s not fully getting the difference between a discussion of possible plans and invitation to a planned event?

    I know how my group e-mail chains go and there can be a lot of like, planning as part of a regular conversation. Like “Hey wasn’t that class terrible? Oh By the way guys, I’m going to make dinner on Friday at 7 Hope to see you there!” “oh lets go to this place instead?” Uhhhhg rude.

    One way to approach this would be to get really formal about events that you are planning. You could sure when you’re planning an event that it’s sent separately as an invitation. You could even get super cheesy and use evite with their fancy formats. I would go full out:

    “you’re Invited!!!!! A Dinner Party”
    When – This friday
    Where- Chez Mois
    What – This is what I’m making you!
    Let me know if you can make it!”

    And you might even BCC it so that people’ can’t reply all. Or set up a facebook event, or something. Make it clear that this is a planned fucking event, and not a “discussion about possible plans.” If she replies or makes an effort to change a plan that is presented in that way it is going to be OBVIOUS to everyone what she is doing. And whether you decide to follow up with her in public or in private she might catch on a little quicker.

    Is your group set up enough that you could even create like an events google calendar that people could put stuff on? I know, but, yeah. Or Facebook or basically anything that’s not an e-mail chain.

    I’m suggesting this because it seems possible that she is NOT GETTING that sometimes things are a discussion of possible plans and sometimes they are invitations to pre-planned events. I very often have just like “Hey wanna do this thing?” conversations with friend wherein we all make suggestions. But that’s totally different than “Hiking Saturday All Invited!” and maybe she needs more cues around that.

    Obviously, you are not obligated to change your behavior to try and fix her issue. But it might help clear up confusion if she’s replying to things that are clear “invitations” with suggestions of alternate plans, then she is clearly the one being weird and people will be less likely to be confused if she’s super rudely responding to very clear invitations with “Let’s not and do what I want!”

    (Or maybe she really is that rude, in which case, I would worry less about being nice about this. Wow.)

    1. Yeah, this is ringing as a possibility for me (though I’ll admit to being the person who tries the most generous possible motivation for things.) It sounds like she might be interpreting “Let’s go hiking this Saturday” as shorthand for “I think we should all get together and do something. My vote is for hiking. Any other suggestions?” I’m not seeing her as more clueless than anything because there don’t seem to be repercussions for saying “no” to her.

      That’s an even better reason to address it, though, because she’s going to be aggravating people all over the place if she doesn’t understand the difference between an invitation and a collaborative planning endeavor.

      1. Yeah, I was thinking of that possibility as well (and honestly that’s totally something I’d do, because I’m oblivious). I think it depends on how Friend reacts to “uh, actually, no, I really want to go hiking, who else wants to do that?” The difference between clueless and passive-aggressive is largely visible in how a person responds to pushback.

    2. You can also split the difference, if there is a core/periphery split. Like, I sometimes have parties that aren’t birthdays or anything, so I could move it to the next/previous weekend easily enough, and there are a few people I really want to see there as well as a bunch of people it’d be fun to have drop in.

      A little check-in with your core buddies and/or the friends who have shown themselves to be helpful planners, followed by a BCCed invite to everyone, might be appropriate in some circumstances.

    3. I also thought this! I think it’s more likely than her trying to passive-aggressively con LW out of outings with her friends, to be honest. This might be because all of my group events in college were “planned” by long text chains of people suggesting and rearranging plans, though. The only thing that gives me pause is the dinner party. Suggesting a restaurant instead of a planned dinner party in someone’s home is truly bizarre.

      On the other hand, though, some people aren’t privileged enough to grow up in families and cultures with these unspoken codes about social events. Maybe she truly just Doesn’t Get It?

      1. It’s possible. If someone invited me to dinner at their house/has actually happened when I invite people to my house > oh, lets go to [restaurant] instead! would be very likely. Mostly because “then nobody has to worry about cooking for anyone” and ‘easier for everyone to get to’ and ‘no awkwardness around flatmates/family/cat allergies’ (also SO MANY FOOD ISSUES in our groups 😀 )

        1. However, in my parents’ case, a dinner invite is a clear and official Fancy Cooking Session separate from a restaurant invite.

    4. I find it really frustrating when somebody tries to re-plan or rearrange an event, because, say I’m having a party on Saturday and Alice, George and Pierre can all make it, then June is like “oh can it be Friday instead?” Then it turns out Alice can’t make Friday, and it just gets messy. I hate changing an event after people have already said they can make it because it’s really likely people may have cleared their schedule to come, so it seems unfair to then change it if even one person has say, switched a work shift or turned down another invitation?

      1. God, yes. This is why I don’t have much of a social life anymore.

        I’ve always been willing to compromise and go places and do things that aren’t particularly on my radar, or are at kind of bad times for me. No huge deal–I consider this part of the cost of friendship. That’s just the way it works.

        But anytime I plan something, even with consciously working around other people’s schedules and other issues, everyone wants to change it, do something different, etc. And honestly? About the only time I even schedule anything is for my birthday–usually a get-together at a restaurant for which I try to cover everyone’s bill.

        Did that this summer. Gave people 2 weeks notice in advance, planned on paying, and offered transportation.

        Three people suggested different restaurants, one wanted me to change the time/day, and most couldn’t even be bothered to respond as specifically requested.

        I had to cancel my own birthday dinner because almost no one got back to me, and of those who did, only 1 person was willing to come and go where I wanted to.

        So I’m still trying to figure out if I was expecting too much, or if I just have crappy friends…

        1. Sounds like crappy friends to me – or at least, friends who don’t realize how much they’re treading on you for whatever reason. But that’s exactly the reason I don’t make plans for my birthday, because historically that’s exactly what’s happened (I’m no longer friends with my ex-crappy-friends) and I’d end up in hysterics from the stress of trying to accommodate all the different people wanting different things so I’d just cancel the whole day and have dinner with my family instead. Now I skip all the stress and just have dinner with my family (and often an additional Actually Good friend or two.)

          1. Wish I could do the family thing instead, but I have none. (Parents both passed away, not in touch with my one aunt & cousins, and the less said about the waste of protoplasm that is my sister, the better.)

            I’ve really only got 2 good friends, but one is a 6 hour drive away and the other a 3 hour flight.

            I’ve gotten very, very isolated since my mother died, and it gets unbearable at times. I’m dreading X-mas, because I’ve spent every single one since 2011 alone at home, depressed as hell and borderline suicidal. My birthdays are only marginally better.

            I’ve always been the person nobody remembers to invite and who finds out about the party a week after it happened, but I’ve yet to figure out a way to change it. I had a very (culturally) different upbringing from most of my friends, and have never “fit” anywhere in the US. I definitely think there’s a cultural gap, and I also have a different view of friendship than most. For me, the main thing I want to do with my friends is see them face-to-face and talk (about anything), or at least have actual phone conversations. Yet whenever we do get together, we always have to be doing something–watching a movie, playing video games, etc., and no one wants to actually mentally engage with one another. It’s frustrating as hell.

            I don’t have a smartphone (I waste too much time as it is), and I’m not constantly on the internet either, so I seem to always get forgotten that way. Plus, people I only know casually (rarely meet up with, only communicate online/FB, etc.) I don’t really consider friends–they’re “acquaintances” to me. If you actually want to be my friend, you need to put a bit more effort into keeping in touch with me, and actually get to know me as a person.

            I don’t know. It’s just so damn frustrating and depressing as hell, but it’s not a new phenomenon, either. You’d think after 40 years I’d have learned to get over it by now….

    5. “But I’m wondering if part of her issue is that she’s not fully getting the difference between a discussion of possible plans and invitation to a planned event?”

      Yes, I 100% agree that this is happening. She’s not deliberately trying to be rude (at least I don’t think so) – she’s a genuinely nice person. I have tried the semi-formal invite email (not an evite, but an email in when-where-what format), but it doesn’t seem to get across. It suddenly makes a lot more sense to me why people send out email invitations through BCC.

      1. It suddenly makes a lot more sense to me why people send out email invitations through BCC.

        The main reason I do that is because it is not my place to give out Friend A’s email to Friend B and vice-versa. Even if they already know each other, unless I know for completely certain that they are already in correspondence with each other, *using those specific addresses* (like, because I have permission to use my BFF’s private email doesn’t mean everyone does). But yes, it also helps you stay at the center of a particular interaction.

    6. *sigh* serves me right for skim reading the comments, this basically sums up what I was trying to say. And while it’s possible there’s less… pleasant stuff under the hood, explicitly treating it as a social cluelessness/inability to read the context heads off most of the other stuff too, or at least forces it out into the open.

      (And it’s always vaguely possible that the other people being invited are just unmotivated to contribute/organise stuff themselves so don’t actually notice whether it’s a Possible Plans or an Official Event thing, and Hijacking Person thinks that it’s all on them to provide input).

    7. the difference between a discussion of possible plans and invitation to a planned event?

      My husband’s parents did this for our wedding. Primo called them to tell them we had set a date.

      Their response was that they weren’t sure they would be able to find someone to watch the cats.

      Primo told them that we were informing them of the date, not asking them if it was convenient for them.

      1. This actually made me laugh out loud at my desk. “Sorry I couldn’t come to your wedding, son, I couldn’t find someone to cat sit.”

        My dad is the opposite kind of clueless – in November invited my sister and I to his February wedding in another country (12+ hours of travel away) and said “I’ll pay for your tickets!” (because $$ is the only obstacle?) and was really upset when we said we couldn’t come at that time because I was in a brand new job so had no vacation time and my sister was start grad school three weeks before… Weddings and families, yo.

  8. Dear LW,

    The Captain nailed it.

    Even so, I have additional thoughts, which may be helpful to you.

    – Your friend may never outgrow the tendency to steamroller social events. If that’s the case, you’ll have to come up with an emotional coping mechanism, as well as the scripts the Captain suggests. (My mother is like this, my emotional response these days is bemused laughter)

    – You can treat her interjections as the interruptions they are. The Captain’s scripts are kind versions. I have said things like “I am seeing X-movie on Tuesday. That’s what works for me. I don’t want to see Y-movie on Tuesday (or ever).” I am not always sweet natured.

    – Bemused laughter. There are people whom I love who show this specific fault. I laugh. (Sometimes internally) I know I’ve mentioned this already, but it really does help me

    – Formal invitations. At least for dinner.

    – If I brought up this behavior with someone (and I probably wouldn’t ), I’d bring up the dinner party even though it happened in the past, rather than waiting for the next occurrence. I’d say “I am upset about something that happened a while ago. I invited people to a dinner party at my house, and you immediately suggested dinner out instead. I felt, and still feel, hurt. Please don’t override my next invitation.”

    Meanwhile, kudos to you for trying to sort this out now.

    1. I agree with all of this … but “your friend may never outgrow the tendency to steamroller social events” should be appended with “ON HER OWN.” If OP actually considers her a friend, or she is so a part of OP’s friend group that OP probably can’t avoid her, then OP has a quasi-duty* to her friend to gently point out the bad behaviour and ask her to be more aware of it.

      *I know, I know, we aren’t actually duty-bound to rehab our friends, but it seems unlikely that OP is the only victim of this person’s obnoxious behaviour, and I’ve had to accept criticism before from my friends – it made me a better friend and person, and I think that when one can kindly help someone else, one should.

      1. Maybe it’s not that OP has any duty to correct Plans Usurper, but rather, it would be kinder in the long run to correct Plans Usurper, not just for OP’s peace of mind and that of others in their entire friend group, but is actually a kindness to Plans Usurper as well.

  9. There do seem to be some Geek Fallacies going on here. One of them is that if you invite some members of the social group to an event, you must invite everyone. This is actually not true. Next time you want to host a dinner party, don’t invite her. If (when) she finds out and asks why, say, “The last time I invited you to a dinner party, you tried to change my invitiation into a group outing to a restaurant.” If another friend asks why you are leaving someone out, say the same thing (with suitably modified pronouns).

    If she pushes back, you can tell her that it hurt your feelings, interfered with your ability to plan an event you were hosting, led you to believe that she didn’t enjoy dinner parties at people’s homes, or whatever else seems true to you. But you don’t have to lead with that. State the basic truth and let it be awkward for her. Actions have consequences, and if someome tries to railroad my specific invitations into “collaborative” event arranging, where she’s the lead collaborator, the consequnce is that I don’t issue anymore similar invitations to that person.

    Alternatively, you can wait until the next time she does this to you and respond in the moment. If she does it publicly, say, “A trip to X restaurant could be fun, but this email thread is about a planned event to which I am inviting people. Please, everyone, let me know if you can come so I know how much salmon to buy.” And then don’t invite her next time.

    You can change your mode of invitations (set up a FB event, use evite, send individual emails, send paper invitations, whatever), but you don’t actually have to do this. If your group uses group emails to issue invitations, then she needs to learn to deal with that appropriately.

    Finally, as more examples of this sort of thing come out, especially the birthday party, I want to agree with those who think that in this case, collaborating with her to make group plans would backfire. She doesn’t seem to understand the difference between “hey guys, it’s going to be a beautiful sunny weekend and none of us have exams coming up — maybe we could get together and do something outdoors — anyone have any good ideas?” and “I am inviting you to X event at Y time on Z date”. Before it makes sense to plan things together, she needs to learn that distinction.

    1. This would be good advice if the LW didn’t actually want to hang out with her, but it sounds like aside from this issue, they’re friends and LW does actually want to spend time together. Given that, refusing to invite her might come off as a bit passive aggressive? And not necessarily solve the problem.

      1. That was my thought. If it’s a misunderstanding (which OP seems to think is the case) and not intentional rudeness on the part of the friend, I think it would be kinder to clarify up front instead of just suddenly not inviting her to things and only explaining if she asks why. That to me sort of smacks of the ‘silent treatment’ approach. “I’m deliberately not inviting you to this event that everyone else is invited to, and I’m not going to tell you why up front but I’m waiting for you to ask so I can tell you how mad I am at your past behavior” is… not kind. It might be necessary, if OP decides this is a person she doesn’t want in her life anymore, but for people with whom you have a basic level of affection and trust, I think it’s a lot better to explain up front.

  10. I had a friend who did this. We stopped being friends for reasons in addition to this, but it was a non-trivial contributing factor. LW, if this is causing a lot of stress in your life (and in your friends’ lives–she renegotiated someone’s birthday party? YIKES), you can always just stop inviting her to stuff.

    That doesn’t mean, like, dropping her cold. But it sounds like maybe there’s kind of a de facto group that amorphously tends to get invited to everything? If so, make it a little more well-defined and a little less everyone-always-does-everything-together. You can invite just a few friends to a thing, and then a different few friends to a different thing, and then try a big group thing including her on rarer occasions.

    I also agree a LOT with the commenters above who have suggested making the form of the invitations more, well, formal, so that it’s clear that you are inviting people to an event which has already been set in stone, not asking people for their suggestions.

    Lastly, I had a different friend who did this in small ways while *at* the party — constantly trying to push boundaries and change rules or plans. My solution was to tell her, “Well, I’m the host, and this is how we’re doing it.” Worked surprisingly well, though my ears turned a bit red.

    Good luck. I’m sorry this person is doing this!

    1. Changing the plans for the party AT THE PARTY? Like, you said “OK, I’m putting in The Force Awakens!” and she said, “Oh, I really want to watch Fury Road instead”? RUDE. “Hey, everyone, I’m about to pop the brownies in the oven!” “Oh, can’t we have baklava instead?” RUDE.

      1. A few years ago my husband and I invited another couple to dinner and a movie (specifically named, that we really wanted to see) at our house. The guy seemed to think he was The Great Movie Expert and brought a stack of DVDs as alternative suggestions. I was seriously annoyed.

        1. ARGH, that’s so annoying!

          I had a situation sort of like that in college. The women in our social group had decided to plan a “girly night” where we made brownies, painted our nails, and watched a romcom. Stereotypical, yes, but we liked it, and we made it clear what we were doing so any women who weren’t interested in “girly night” wouldn’t be blindsided by nail-painting and Colin Firth.

          Well, one of the guys was like, don’t you think that’s kind of gender-essentialist of you? And we shrugged and said, okay, you wanna bake brownies and paint your nails and watch Bridget Jones, you can.

          Of course he showed up with a stack of alternate movies. Of course. Because he didn’t like romcoms, and he was sure we could all decide on a nice action flick or sci fi movie, right? And never mind that the romcom was part of the entire point of the evening.

  11. The vibe I’m getting is that this woman feels she doesn’t have the same power you do to attract people to an event, so instead of coming up with her own event in the first place she relies on the momentum that’s already been built up by you in getting the group together for X event, and then tries to modify it to what she would like.

    I used to have similar problem with my ex-husband who was a control freak and also not very socially adept or popular. He didn’t like to initiate his own things but would always try to change other people’s arrangements to suit himself, was completely oblivious to the inconvenience of his demands but would sulk if he got left out. He was the sort of person who would try to negotiate an off-menu order when there were 20 other people at the table waiting to order – “I’d like the Ranchero pizza, but I want that with tomato sauce instead of BBQ sauce, and ham instead of bacon, plus a Greek salad but no olives or feta, and thousand island dressing instead of vinaigrette” – FFS dude, just order the Supremo and a green salad, we’re starving here! Or if he wanted help with something and you’d say “I’m free Monday or Wednesday afternoon” and he’d say “what about Friday at 10? that suits me better”. (Reason #675 he is my ex)

    1. Or if he wanted help with something and you’d say “I’m free Monday or Wednesday afternoon” and he’d say “what about Friday at 10? that suits me better”.

      Could be worse. He could just have said ‘those days don’t work for me’.

      *glares at a very specific friend who I no longer hang out with anymore because that was the stock response to every meeting suggestion*

    2. BWAHAHA are you me? I also have a control freak ex husband and numbered Annoying Things He Did in the six hundreds…

  12. I can’t tell from the wording in the letter, but are the other people in the group changing their plans to go along with her counter-invitation? Or is it more of a “Hmm, duly noted” reaction?

  13. Could you push back for each other? ‘That sounds fun but Monday is LW’s dinner party, why don’t you do your thing next week? ‘

    I know you know she knows, but lets her know she’s gone past discussion to ‘totally new competing thing’.

    1. I like this one a lot! Say something like “Actually I’m really looking forward to trying Kristina’s new chicken recipe, so I’ll be at the dinner party for sure!” It can feel really crappy to be the host and feel like your friends prefer the *other* idea.

    2. That and/or, “Hey, that’s a good idea for another time, but this is already planned and scheduled. It just isn’t really possible to change anything.” If she’s clueless, here’s her not-unkind clue. If this is some sort of a (semi-)deliberate power play, it just shuts her down.

  14. If she wants to plan something, she can make her own email, and I would say that. “Person, that sounds like a great idea, why don’t you create a new email thread for those plans? This one is about my plans. Thanks!”

  15. I saw “classmate” rather than “friend” so I’m not sure there’s actually a friendship to preserve. Which isn’t to say that the OP should be callous, but if someone isn’t actually a friend and does something like this I’m not likely to fall all over myself to protect their feelings.

    Just a year ago, well into middle age, I discovered the magic phrase, “Thanks, but that won’t work for me.” I have used it successfully with people who are clueless or passive-aggressive (or just aggressive). The latest was someone who starts every sentence with, “But couldn’t you just ?” Invoking “Thanks, but that won’t work for me” has solved lots of problems.

    I second the formal invite from one of those electronic party invite services. If you try to hijack one of those then you’re an inexcusable ass.

  16. I strongly recommend you NOT do the Captain’s last suggestion of conferring with her before making plans next time. I can see that setting up a dynamic where BossyFriend thinks all your plan making needs to be cleared through her before inviting the group. It’s like her derailing and interjections “worked” – she got to have first say and veto power over the whole group. Even if you have a talk about how her interjections were hurtful, she will see this request for her approval as the best solution to the drama of changing your plans after they’re announced.

  17. This kind of thing is so frustrating! From my own experience, I find it very hard to outright say “I want to do X and you’re all invited!” and I’ve only hosted parties at my own home a couple times. I think I’m just really afraid no one will be into it or think I’m bossy for having opinions? (I know this is untrue and am working on it!) Anyway – this leads to me phrasing invites as questions. You know “Hey people X thing is on does anyone think it might be fun to go? Or maybe Y thing would be fun? Or maybe we should catch up and do something else?” And then there’s a negotiation and if someone wants to do something else I tend to let go of my original idea…

    I think this is a very common experience, especially among my friends, who also tend to express plans this way. And it makes planning anything a nightmare of dithering and “oh whatever *you* want” and it’s really hard to make anything happen. And of course it makes everything prone to hijacking by other people’s plans – I think mostly there’s an unspoken rule not to do that, but if someone does we’re kind of helpless before a firmly expressed preference.

    I’m not saying the LW and her friends are necessarily like this – some people are rude enough to probably hijack wedding invites! But reading all the advice to be more formal reminded me of what I’m trying to do in my life, which is before formality to just clearly express an invitation without hedging it in a thick coating of my own insecurity. Instead I try to clearly and unambiguously express my plan and my preferences for how it will go down.

    I think this fear of being pushy or selfish is part of why people who hijack plans are so mortifying. It’s so hard sometimes to just say “no, I like my original plan, I’m doing that and people are welcome to join me” – it feels pushy or selfish or like starting drama. But like all the use-your-words advice here it turns out that expressing your own wishes gets easier with practice.

    1. I get the insecurity about extending invitations. I’ve had some success getting over it, though I still feel nervous whenever I extend an invitation to someone new. The mantra that helped me is “Grown-ups don’t interpret invitations as insults; if someone is offended that I express an interest in spending time with them, they’re not someone I want to spend time with after all.” And, like many things, I’ve found that it gets easier with practice.

      This is also one of the things I like about Facebook – it gives me a low-key way to stay in touch with people I meet and like but am not yet ready for the risk of extending an invitation (or don’t have space in my schedule to do so right away). In my circles, it’s perfectly normal to meet someone at a party, and later ask “Are you on Facebook?” and then one of you will friend the other later.

      As far as making plans in a group goes, I love the idea of the Designated Control Freak: http://www.petting-zoo.org/2014/05/05/dcf/. I’ve taken to accepting the DCF role when that sort of issue comes up because I have very little patience for standing around dithering when I’m hungry and saying “How about [place]?” gets me fed faster than saying “I don’t care where we go, but let’s just go somewhere”

      1. Oh yes I do the Facebook thing too, and as you say, people are unlikely to take invitations as insults. I am gradually learning not to get my insecurities all over everyone. :-/

        And yes time one thousand to “hey lets eat here!” over “I don’t mind where we eat.” I’ve been party to far too many hours spent with everyone milling around trying to work out where to eat.

        1. I do the elimination route to choosing a restaurant. The first person to go lists five (or seven or any number larger than the number of people in the group) restaurants they’d be happy to eat at. Then someone eliminates their least favorite (or two least favorites) of the set. Then the next person eliminates one. And so on until you have a result. It’s pretty fast and no one feels like they’ve been pushy and also no one feels strong armed into eating something they hate.

          1. I often do a variation of that with my husband or when one/few friends – I’ll give three suggestions (typically with some variation, not 3 Chinese places or 3 expensive places) and if they don’t like any of those, it’s up to them to come up with something.

      2. I love the dcf thing. I think i am the dcf more often than not because I HATE DITHERING. That thing where everyone stands around and shrugs at each other makes me nuts. I wish other people would do it too.

    2. If it helps, I find there’s a psychological difference between Organiser and Inviter.

      If I am organising an event for people, I need to be very clear so that everyone has the info they need to opt in and the details are just the details of Specific Event.

      If I am inviting people to my thing suddenly everything is My Preference and potential rejection is rejection of me, and acceptance leads to ‘how much can I push what I want on people’.

      Being clear that you are organising the Bungee Jumping In Silly Clown Costumes event is much more emotionally straightforward (to me) than saying ‘would you like to come to my birthday? also I will make you bungee jump and you really need to be wearing a costume’.

      1. That’s a really sensible way to look at things, flynnthecat. I’m a new mom, and trying to Social with Infant is really hard. But maybe organizing “We’re going Poke-walking on Saturday, wanna come?” would be less emotionally stressful than “Who would like to go to the park with us some time? Bueller? Bueller?”

        Also, silly costume bungee jumping sounds terrifying, but fun.

        1. Yeah. I mean, sometimes people can’t make it, but then it feels more like ‘event invitees couldn’t make it’ and less like ‘nobody wants to hang out, maybe I should have tried to meet them halfway somewhere’.

          The real danger is the floppy feet bouncing around.

    3. The wedding invite thing happened to me. One of our invitees (who said she was coming), all of a sudden planned her birthday party on our wedding date (which was not her birthday). For the whole day. And all but two of the people she invited were coming to our wedding. (they all came to our wedding)

      There are many reasons that she’s not a friend anymore, but that really put the icing on the cake of “not worth friend-energy.”

      That said, I agree with the idea that separate, clear invites BCC’d would be the way to go in the future, if for no other reason than to make her hijacking more obvious and easier to call out. And it probably will feel pushy and embarrassing to stand firm and say “no thanks, this is my plan, please make your own on a different day,” but it’ll get easier.

      1. If nothing else, I’d say that inviting people to your birthday party the same day as someone’s wedding is more likely to end badly for you than for the couple – no matter how much I love a friend, their birthday happens every year and people (hopefully) only get married once.

    4. “I think I’m just really afraid no one will be into it…I think this fear of being pushy or selfish is part of why people who hijack plans are so mortifying.”

      So much this. As a person who was already a sensitive deep smarty-pants weirdo by about age 4, didn’t grow up in a place where it was all that easy to find kindred spirits, all the things I had the most fun doing were more complicated than team sports, watching tv, drinking/smoking, and my family even was always making me feel like my ideas were just so “uggghhh…her wanting to do weird thing again,” when I finally get up the nerve to invite people to something and it seems like at least a few people are interested, it is hugely annoying and anxiety-provoking when someone tries to counter-schedule. It is a big pet peeve of mine.

      It seems like most of the time this happens is when I’m trying to see who among acquaintances might become friends or someone I might date, like when I start a new job, school program, or activity. I don’t know if the following insights are true, but it has certainly seemed like the people who do this are competing to see who will go to their thing instead. This includes both counter-inviters who seem to overall like me and others who seem not to, but on some occasions it feels like I’m not invited, but other of my intended guests are. After getting to know people better, I also notice some people who want/need to get really drunk or stoned will counter plan, alternate plan or plan a pre-event (that sometimes hijacks original plan) to allow for their preferred level of altered state more cheaply, privately, and without having to get from place to place but having everyone they want with them instead of at original event.

      Certainly this tends to sort itself out eventually, as people sort themselves into more established friend groups, but I’ve moved around a lot, so there have been several cycles of this. I do try to recognize that other people manifest their insecurities differently than I do and that the way I am insecure doesn’t always mesh well with the ways that others are. But sometimes I just want some company and comfortable friendship at an activity I like instead of going alone to something I really like to do yet again or to another new Meetup or activity of interest where its a lot of work to socialize with new people, and right now I’m a bit exhausted at having to deal with all the drama and division that still seems to come with forming friendships and dating– way this far into adulthood!

    5. Gah, yes, my friends are super dithery planners. There are a few people who try really hard to be accommodating and end up making other people frustrated because either a) they don’t know what the plan is or b) they feel pushed into having to become the organizer when they would rather just be a guest! The “all day birthday party” has become a bit of a disaster a few times. Someone’s like, oh it’s my birthday I want to do something … but instead of having a solid plan, they want to give as many people as possible a chance to come by. So instead of a “Come by at 4PM at my place, we’ll watch the Hobbit and go to Chez Smaug for dinner” it’s “Come hang out on my birthday, anytime all day, and we’ll do whatever people want to do!”

      This ends up being worse because if I do go over, then most people want to say, play Cranium or Rock Band or something else I”m not really into, I feel awkward as heck about not wanting to do it. Whereas if they’d just said “Come by for a Cranium/Rock Band night on my birthday” I could’ve said “that’s not really my thing but let’s do sushi next week.” Or whatever.

      And yes, like you said it tends to be hijacked by whoever has the most forceful personality, so a group can end up *always* doing what one person wants, sort of by default. I am trying so hard to get away from this type of thing, It’s really difficult, because it’s very tempting to want to make it accommodating to everybody so there’s less chance of a “none of my friends came!” thing…

  18. I don’t want to parse through a stranger’s psychology here but honestly I’m so interested in what’s going on in her brain because this seems like really pointedly nasty behaviour to me, and it’s a really weird way to be nasty.

    I agree with the Captain that if this seems passive-aggressive it needs to be treated like active aggression and responded to in kind… if you call her out in the moment she can’t hide behind the veil of what’s convenient for her or propping herself up as a sounding board for anyone else who might find fault with your plans, and the conversation becomes specifically about how this recurring behaviour is affecting you. It doesn’t sound like she’s being a good friend here, it’s creepy, at best thoughtless and at worst cruel.

  19. For a different point of view, this is the sort of thing that happens in my social group all the time. It is, however, a thing that people expect to happen, so it’s not quite as tone deaf, and it’s a negotation/brainstorm thing rather than a ‘so this is the New Plan’. From the quoted examples, it sounds like the Problem Person could be intending it either way, so I don’t have a context to judge which they’re doing.

    In our case, what will happen will either be:

    – here is an excuse to get together. The actual event is irrelevant, so if something else works better, we will switch to that.

    – this thing is a thing I want to do > triggers an idea of brain storm of WE COULD TOTALLY DO THIS OTHER THING simply because I remembered it and we are talking about things that we can do

    What often happens in these cases is that:

    a) either everyone getting there and enjoying themselves is The Priority so we dance around negotiating a bit until we settle on something that works (may or may not be the original thing). This can end up causing people to get carried away shifting stuff until we lose sight of the original thing we meant to do, which means either we have to go ‘oh, actually… ‘ and reset everything, or we go ‘eh, another time’. Which works *because* we do stuff multiple times.

    b) everyone gets excited about the New Ideas, discusses them for awhile, and then ends up doing the original thing anyway because that’s the thing that’s mostly organised/being chosen by the Host Person and the other thing(s) is put aside for next time with ‘yes we should definitely do that.ONE DAY’ stuff.

    c) someone sees the conversation sidetracking and goes ‘okay, we don’t have time/whatever/we need to know what we’re doing so I say we show up at X for Y time, hands up if that works for you guys’, and then the Plan is Made.

    So possibly helpful things:

    1. If New Idea is meh, just reiterate that you’re doing [original idea] because that’s what works for you/what this is about (more or less as suggested already) and start planning round it saying when it will be/asking for numbers.

    2. If New Idea is cool/others are into it: That sounds great, but you really want to host dinner party/go to X* [this event is specifically about X Thing wording], how about we do New Idea next time? (Whether you actually take on the organising or just prompt them going ‘so are you still planning to do Idea this weekend?’ entirely up to you and what you want to do and whether you even want to be involved).

    *you don’t even have to say this bit unless everyone is super excited/it’s time sensitive. You can just say ‘okay, well, the dinner party is tonight, but we could do laser tag next friday when they have a special on’ and then ignore the laser tag discussion once it is clearly separated from your dinner party plans.

    I probably just said the same thing three different ways and will think of the perfect two line summary in a minute. But …basically, this is stuff I do*, although I USUALLY don’t do it to people’s Specific Events, only to ‘hey we should get together and this thing sounds like a good excuse’, but sometimes there’s a lot of context reading involved in drawing the line there (sometimes I have to walk it back and be all ‘yes, we will do your thing, if you wanted to do this specifically? and we can do Other Thing next time?’ And it is a thing my friends do to me a lot, so sometimes I am all ‘urgh, but I wanted to go to [restaurant] and now it’s suddenly a go to other place so other friend can join in thing’ and sometimes I just go along with that and sometimes I point it out and people go ‘whoops’).

    *because a) am used to having to round up friends and figure out/offer alternatives, b) ADHD means blurting out random ideas all the time that just seem THAT AWESOME but I don’t actually care if we do them five minutes after I mention it.

    1. I … hmm. Are your friends all cool with this situation? Because I know for me, when I suggest that folks get together to do a particular thing, even if the point is mostly “let’s all get together,” I would not be cool with someone suggesting that we do something different instead. There’s a difference between “let’s all go have dinner — I could do X, or does anyone else have suggestions?” and “I’d like to go to X, do y’all want to come?” If I’m suggesting that people come up with ideas for what we can do, I am up for negotiation. But if I’m inviting people to do something, I don’t want to negotiate the invitation. People can do the thing I suggested, or not do the thing I suggested, but an invitation is an invitation, not an opening move.

      1. Yeah, I think what’s getting me here is that there are definitely two different sort of opening gambits for inviting people to things, at least in the cultures that I have interacted in.

        There’s the opening-to-negotiations gambit, which in my idiolect looks something like: “Hey y’all, it’s going to be a beautiful weekend, let’s hang out! Maybe the beach?” Or, “Who wants to get dinner on Thursday? We could do dumplings or hit up that new Mexican restaurant near Sally.” From there, “I’d love to see you guys! I’m free Saturday” and “Sounds great, but maybe could we go hiking instead of to the beach?” or “Oooh, sounds lovely. There’s this great new Indian place near me–we could try that!”

        But there’s also the not-open-to-negotiations gambit, which goes something like, “I have concert tickets for such-and-such two weeks from now! Who wants to join?” or “There’s this great new seafood restaurant near here that I really want to try. I’m thinking Thursday–anyone want to join?” Where the expected response is not negotiation, but “yes” or “no” or “no but” (“Sorry, I cant make Thursday, but I’d still love to see you! Are you free next Tuesday?”–where you’re proposing a separate event, not a modification of this one). If there is need for a modification, it needs an explanation (“I’d love to, but I’m allergic to seafood. Any chance we could find something else?”), and the answer may be “oh sure, let’s do Italian this time and I’ll hit the seafood restaurant up some other time,” or it may still be “Sorry, I really want to try this restaurant, but I’d love to see you some other time; when are you free?” And events hosted by an individual at their home is always in category 2, where you can say yes or no or no-but-let’s-see-each-other-some-other-time, and modifications need a reason (“Spaghetti night sounds like a blast, but I’m vegan,” and then you can either offer vegan meatballs or offer to see them on another night).

        These distinctions are pretty clear to us, so much so that until this question I hadn’t sat down and thought about the difference between the two. But I could definitely see how crossing the streams could lead to confusion. (Although… I have to admit, I do still think it’s just generally strange to try to renegotiate a dinner party that someone is hosting in their own home. That’s the bit that hangs me up the most.)

      2. I agree. The issue is that this scenario:
        A: “Let’s all XYZ on Friday at 8.”
        B: “But what if we ABC’d at 7:30 instead?”
        disregards what A said.

        It’s like when I’m in a group and I say something, and somebody talks over me, or uses my idea as a jumping point for their superior idea. It feels crappy. I feel unimportant and incidental. I already have a history with emotional abuse and low self worth, so this is a tender spot that gets swollen when prodded.

        The issue isn’t necessarily that A wanted specifically to XYZ–which a lot of the time, I’m sure, is the case. The issue is that A’s suggestion of XYZ was Lame And Boring and we should all disregard that and do ABC instead. It’s a bad feeling. Though you may not relate to that feeling, I’d encourage putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes.

      3. It’s *very* contextual. It works for us because a) we all do it and we all know we do it (and we encourage it because otherwise the shyer/more anxious people never speak up and end up quietly backing out of plans that don’t work for them), and b) we know to frame Very Official Events differently as ‘this is the event. It is my event. You are invited’. Most of the times I get quietly sulky/sad at the sidetracking are when I’m either expecting mindreading or my expectations aren’t actually reasonable for the entire group.

        With a wider group, I’d be much more annoyed because I’d care far more about Event and less about Friends Getting Together For Any Reason. But I’d also be a lot less open to letting the discussion get sidetracked… but it still happens. It means active framing/policing as ‘this is the event’, rather than just default ‘how about we go to X on Friday?’.

      4. Huh, I… have never actually had a friend group that worked that way on a regular basis. Occasional events that required a lot of advance planning, yeah, but on a regular basis, most things are up in the air, or at least negotiable. (“I can’t make it there by 7; can we do 7:30 instead?” etc)

        1. I used to have friends groups where everything about outings was negotiable, and, in retrospect — it was exhausting, and I don’t want to do that anymore. Maybe this is just a life stage thing, but I am so grateful to have most of my current social life be invitations that can be accepted or turned down without a lot of negotiation, rather than everything turning into trying to find a restaurant where twelve people want to eat, or ending up in a bar that doesn’t serve food (to hear a band I don’t care about play) because the original idea of “I’m hungry, so let’s …” has completely gotten lost.

          1. Yeah, I make fixed invitations for that very reason. I spent most of my twenties trying to play the complex logic puzzle problem of “A can do Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday but only after 7:30, and eats Thai and Mexican but is lactose intoerant” and “B can do Wednesday or Friday and eats anything but needs a place that has chairs instead of booths,” and “C and do any day this week but only before 7 except on Tuesday, and doesn’t eat cilantro,” and “D can eat anything but only on Tuesday but needs a place that isn’t loud” and so on times ten people, and it’s exhausting.

  20. I feel like one benign explanation for this is that Person wants to organize things but isn’t a particularly pro-active person. Then, 50% of the task appears in her inbox, completed – compiling and connecting to people and getting the ball rolling – and now is the chance! Regardless of her secret motivations and urges, I think I’d try public 3 or 4 times but with a bit more teeth than the Captain’s (also totally good) suggestion? “Ooh a bowling night sounds fun, you should totally set that up! In the meantime who’s coming to *thing the email is about.*” I think it makes the possibly-private portion of addressing this easier to dive into? Cause it’s more obviously on the table if she’s gotten this response a few times gently and in public. But also it maybe stops the hijacking of the specific event in its tracks by gently telling her to organize her idea somewhere else.

    1. “Ooh a bowling night sounds fun, you should totally set that up!

      This is also an excellent management technique. Two friends and I founded and ran a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer group. (We made the mistake of going to the bathroom when officers were being elected, which is how we ended up in charge.)

      There was this woman who had all these ideas about Big Events we should do. In the past, I would assume responsibility for executing other peoples’ ideas, which is not a good thing to do, especially if you are not being paid.

      So after several of her Big Ideas that she wanted me to do, I finally said, “Big Idea person, that is a FABULOUS idea! Why don’t you be in charge of it?”

      And nothing ever happened.

      But I didn’t care.

      1. I had a weird experience sort of like this. I had just gotten the Mouse Guard RPG and wanted to try it out by running a quick one-shot session with a bunch of friends. He replied by saying that he wasn’t interested in a tabletop RPG about mice but we could have a Mario Kart tournament on that day instead because he’d be interested in that. (With the implication that I should still host? But for Mario Kart instead of Mouse Guard? And also an implication that only foolish people would enjoy an RPG about mice but of course everyone likes Mario Kart.)

        I replied by saying, “Mario Kart sounds like fun, but I really want to try out this Mouse Guard game. You should totally organize a Mario Kart tournament the next weekend though!”

        His response was that this was unfair because I have more ‘social capital’ than him, and can command a larger group, and he doesn’t want to do Mario Kart with the three people he could get to come over, he wanted the ten people who were willing to come to my thing. There was actually some implication that I was a Mean Girl and/or ableist, wielding my social status for evil somehow by wanting to host an event I wanted.

        I did not note that he doesn’t have much ‘social capital’ because he’s known for being abrasive. I did mention in passing that one of the ways to build up social capital is to suggest and host events yourself–I became a minor social locus for the group not because I have Magic Powers of Charisma but because I just kept inviting friends over and saying, “I’m making a giant pot of spaghetti and watching X-Files reruns, who wants to join?”–and yes, at first I only got three people, but social capital is something you build up over time.

        But mostly I had to just put my foot down. “No, I want to play Mouse Guard. If you don’t want to play Mouse Guard, you don’t have to come. But I’m not switching to Mario Kart to please you.”

        1. “I did mention in passing that one of the ways to build up social capital is to suggest and host events yourself–I became a minor social locus for the group not because I have Magic Powers of Charisma but because I just kept inviting friends over and saying, “I’m making a giant pot of spaghetti and watching X-Files reruns, who wants to join?”–and yes, at first I only got three people, but social capital is something you build up over time.”

          So much this! I’m an introvert but also a low-level social nexus because I love to plan and organize events and am very intentional about it. Another thing that’s useful is to know your ideal group size. I enjoy groups ranging from one-on-one to about 15 people. I’ll occasionally go to someone else’s bigger party, but my semi-annual “big” parties typically have about 30 people invited, which is about the maximum I’d want. Typically this gets me somewhere in the 10-20 range, but if I got 30, it would be fine. For spaghetti and reruns, a group of 4 can be just lovely!

        2. I once had someone walk into my dorm room and start criticizing the movie I was watching with my friend. And she got huffy when I told her she could shut up and watch the movie or she could leave and I didn’t care which, but I was watching the damn movie either way.

          But she left and I got to watch Stand By Me in peace, dammit.

          There is a reason I don’t talk to this person now, despite having a lot (A LOT) of mutual friends, and it entirely has to do with the attitude that led her to walk into my space and criticize something I’m doing that she wasn’t even invited to. Not your circus, not your monkeys, there’s the door.

  21. I would not necessarily assume this is benign or harmless behavior. Especially since it has continued over time and seems to be focused more on the LW than other people.

    I had a close friend once who made a point to hijack any friendships I made with other people and charm them and shower them with attention and basically make it so that SHE was their main friend, not me, thus she was in charge of inviting them over to our shared house if they got invited, etc. etc.

    When I finally realized that she was consistently STEALING MY FRIENDS, I just stopped inviting new friends over to our house so that she couldn’t do that. But it was a fucked up situation.

    Anyway, this isn’t 100% analagous and maybe the person is just being awkward and weird. But my only point is, sometimes people really are that manipulative and shitty.

  22. LW, if you have a group with Geek Social Fallacies going on, it may seem natural and easier (when taking the Captain’s excellent advice) to go the ‘private’ route, but I would strongly recommend you try the public method first. The reason for this is that in a group infested with GSFs of any sort, private discussions can turn into a FEELINGSTORM and invites both selective hearing on her part and friend-drama later. Whereas if you do the public method, you are behaving impeccably *and* handing any potential violation of Geek Propriety right back to her. You are forcing her, in the public arena where the invitations are happening, to be explicit and to communicate appropriately, and doing it without being mean or taking it personally.

  23. I would suggest halving your Planned Group Outings and replacing the empty space with Negotiable Whatever Outings.

    It would provide a space where it’s acceptable for your friend to make suggestions and changes to suit their desires and schedule, while simultaneously drawing a distinction between that situation and the Planned Situation, where it’s not acceptable.

    Like, one week you could try: “I feel like going out this week! Who’s free? What should we do?”

    And the next: “I want to see the 9 o’clock showing of Ice Age 13 on Friday night! Who wants to meet me at the Walgreens on 10th St. beforehand to buy candy to hide in my purse?”

    Theoretically, Friend will see the difference between the two types of events, and get all her Hijack Planning jollies out on the one where it’s allowed. Maybe that’s a lot more work than just hashing it out.

    1. I don’t know…I just don’t see at all why she should have to do that since she’s not the one causing the problem. If she has things she likes doing and enjoys planning, why give up half of those? Probably 90% of the invites I extend are for specific things, I like the clarity and organization that come with having a plan. If I was going to make half of those nebulous, I wouldn’t bother. YMMV of course.

  24. Hi OP!

    I have a different question, based on my own history: is this a problem with your Organizer Friends or Other Friends? Ie does anyone stand up for you when organizer Friend changes plans? Or do you need to fall in line to be a good friend for your group?

    I am a recover Gretchen Wener (Mean Girls). From 10-25 I would die for my BFFs. They were wonderful to be around and the most fun! It took me a long time to realize how little they valued me, my contributions and would spend 10% energy vs my 130% (I never wore white gold hoops y’all!.) When I first discovered my position I was hurt and humiliated. Then I bargained and used it for what it was. And then the greatest thing happened to me- I found another Gretchen Wener who was tired of being put in the penalty box for rules she didn’t know existed and we formed a more equitable friendship.

    I have no idea if this is happening to you. The only reason I raise the issue is because you don’t describe any friends siding with you as they should. This conflict shouldn’t happen with people who value your friendship equally to that of your Organizer friend. As a former Gretchen, this makes me wonder. I would love for your mutual friends to support you entirely but given your lack of evidence I wonder.

    In my case, I lived with Gretchen 2 while both of us partied with our respective Reginas. We sacrificed for them but our Reginas never gave the same back (because we knew demanding it would ruin our friendships). Gretchen 2 and I are celebrating our 11th year of best friendship, which often comes with hurt feelings but also the ability to raise issues in our friendship even though we will never be as cool as our Reginas (but really we just want to watch Veronica Mars in our underwear while eating our weight in butter chicken and beef madras).

    I may be totally wrong, but I want your friends other than the “organizer” friend to support you OP!

    1. watch Veronica Mars in our underwear while eating our weight in butter chicken and beef madras

      On. Board.

  25. Going back to the Captain’s answer, if you think her intentions are benign and you want to be generous to her, you could say something like “When I invite people to X event, it’s because I want to do that thing on that day. It’s not an offer to organize everything for our social group, and it’s only one day. If you want to do Y or Z instead, you should invite people for a date when most of us don’t already have plans” If your classmate has the “everyone must do everything together” social fallacy, she might be open to an explicit suggestion of how to get lots of people to go to her chosen event. (And if she has been doing this because she wants other people to do the work, you may as well tell her explicitly that you’re not going to do that for her.)

  26. Does she initiate her own plans from scratch and carry them out as well as doing this hijack thing, or is the hijack thing her only/main mode of “organising” events?

  27. It’s hard to judge from just two examples, but it strikes me as odd that her attempts to replan these events end up changing a free/cheap* idea into one involving various expenses for everyone.

    *I’m making assumptions about the OP’s dinner plans, but home cooked meals do tend to cost less overall and, unless it’s a pot luck, only the hosts are paying for food.

  28. I’m a big fan of the FB Event – It’s a solid set event. And it’d be a SUPER WEIRD social blunder for someone to respond to that with changes…. Like if everyone gets a notification that “Eddie invited you to Zombie Movie Marathon at her house at 7pm!”…. And then someone posted on the event “I’d rather go to the movie theater to see that new X-Men movie at 8pm! Who’s in?”… everyone would feel weirdly uncomfortable.

    Downside is that people can be annoying with “Maybes.” But I’m a stickler for following up with people (text, email, private message), then changing their status to “Going” or “Not going” (hosts can do that!), and then posting a followup on the event (i.e. Jo, Jon, and Johnny are attending. Jane will be late. Let me know if I missed you.)

    I’m also a big fan of “events” where it’s basically I am doing Cool Thing. Either I can do Cool Thing alone comfortably or I spoke to at least one person ahead of time who is 100% in and 100% reliable, therefore I will have a blast even if everyone else says no.

    1. Oh, the maybes! I accept it because I love my friends, and I understand that kids/jobs/energy can change unexpectedly, but I do tend to hound people if I don’t get an answer. Where hound = 1 wk after invite “Hey, did you get my invite?”, 2 wks after invite “Do you think you’ll make it next week?”, 3-4 days before party “I’m doing food shopping tomorrow for the party – think you’ll be there?” And then shop based on half my maybes showing up.

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